The prosecution is reportedly considering asking the court to again issue an arrest warrant for fugitive Yoo Byung-eun as the current warrant, issued by the Incheon District Court on May 22, expires on July 22.
According to investigators on Thursday, its action comes as the prosecution believes the ferry owner is still hiding somewhere in the nation. Usually, the prosecution suspends its effort to indict a suspect if the person is believed to have fled abroad.
While an ordinary arrest warrant for taking suspects into custody matures one week after it is issued, the Incheon District Court issued the two-month valid warrant in consideration of the incident’s seriousness after the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster.
But it is uncertain whether the court will issue the warrant for the 73-year-old runaway again and if its validity will also be longer than ordinary.
Pundits say the prosecution, which has been under severe public criticism for failing to detain Yoo, is at a problematic crossroads. If there are any allegations that Yoo had already been smuggled abroad, it would be better for the law enforcement agency to scrap its plan to seek another warrant, they said.
Meanwhile, the prosecution has revealed that Yoo may be holding about 2 billion won ($1.9 million) in cash for his flight, saying the fugitive spent 250 million won purchasing land and a building in a district in South Jeolla Province in early May.
Citing the land seller’s testimony on the size of Yoo’s travel bag, the prosecution alleged that about 2 billion won in cash was inside the bag.
On Thursday, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn told the National Assembly that the law enforcement authority will make its utmost effort to capture the irregularity-ridden runaway before the expiry date of July 22.
Over the past several weeks, Hwang has continued to say that prosecutors would work with related agencies to track and arrest Yoo as soon as possible. The minister made the remarks during parliamentary interpellation sessions, expressing regret for the lack of progress thus far.
The prosecution has yet to arrest the fugitive though it has been more than two months since the law enforcement agency barred the Sewol owner from leaving the nation on April 21.
It has been about 50 days since the prosecution initially raided Geumsuwon, a compound of the Salvation Sect, south of Seoul, which is led by Yoo. Investigators forced their way into Geumsuwon twice: on May 21 and June 11.
Further, Yoo’s second son, Hyuk-gi, fled abroad right before the overseas travel ban was slapped on the ferry owner and about 30 other suspects including his relatives and heads of Chonghaejin Marine Co. affiliates.
Reportedly failing to determine the whereabouts of Yoo and his oldest son, Dae-kyun, both of whom have been on the nation’s most wanted list, prosecutors have only captured his wife, brothers and in-laws.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)